Lisa Scott column

Happy spring! It’s great to be back writing about invasive issues in the Okanagan-Similkameen. These articles will run every second week and I am always open to hearing from readers about what topics you would like to learn more about.

While it may not quite feel like spring is in the air, nature has not missed a beat, with an abundance of sagebrush buttercups, yellow bells and even a few balsamroot flowers adding some brilliance to our hillsides.

In my garden, the tulips have emerged in full force (although no flowers yet) and the garlic is also peaking through the layer of mulch, albeit a few weeks behind last year.

Spring is also a time of insect emergence. The plight of bees continues to be topic of conversation amongst not just gardeners and entomologists, but people from all walks of life.

There are various campaigns to raise awareness about pollinators, some of which have direct connections to the Okanagan, including the public art initiative Border Free Bees.

One particular North American campaign initiated last year and continuing into 2017 has caught the attention of bee experts and invasive species specialists.

The General Mills’ Cheerios “Bring Back the Bees” campaign committed to sending more than 1.5 billion seeds to people who requested wildflower seeds to join the effort to help attract threatened pollinators.

While General Mills stated that its mix of wildflower seeds which include asters, bergamot, forget-me-nots, poppies, daisies and lavender, were all specifically chosen to attract bees and are not considered invasive, not everyone agrees.

Some experts are warning seed recipients to ditch the wildflower seeds.

While I would suggest that General Mills embarked on this campaign with the best intentions, it is important to use wildflower mixes with caution.

One of the main problems is the assumption on the part of many purchasers that a packet of wildflower seeds contains seeds of flowers that are native to the local area or at least, in our case, native to the Pacific Northwest.

There is absolutely no guarantee that this is true, and in fact is usually not the case. Most plants are wild somewhere (unless they are a horticultural development), so calling these wildflower seeds is not really a misnomer, but it is misleading to buyers who want to bring some nature back to their gardens.

Although buyers may end up with some flowers, these are unlikely to be wildflowers native to the local area. Certainly none of the species in the General Mills’ mix are native to our region, and there is the potential for unwanted invasive species to be in the mix.

As well, pictures of fields of brilliantly coloured blossoms of a variety of species may fool purchasers. A document I found from Alberta indicated that trials done using a number of different seed packets showed that only a few species are likely to germinate.

By undertaking responsible gardening practices, gardeners can help decrease the impact of invasive plants while still achieving vibrant and dynamic gardens.

For further information on invasive species go to our website: www.oasiss.ca, check out our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ invasivespeciessociety or contact the Program Coordinator for the Okanagan-Similkameen, Lisa Scott, at 250-404-0115 or oasiss@shaw.ca

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